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BMI automates copyright vigilance

The nonprofit unleashes a robot that scours the Net 24 hours a day, looking for digital tunes.

2 min read
BMI's staff used to surf the Net manually to monitor the online use of copyrighted songs, a tedious practice. Today the group that protects licensed music unleashed a new robot that automatically scours the Net 24 hours a day, tracking the whereabouts of digital tunes.

From personal home pages to commercial sites, the music industry and Hollywood have waged a war against the unauthorized uses of licensed recordings in cyberspace. For example, last month during House hearings on bills to revise copyright laws to include digital works, country music star Johnny Cash told lawmakers that his song "Ring of Fire" could be downloaded from a Web site in the Balkan nation of Slovenia, something that he labeled "downright theft."

The nonprofit BMI developed the "MusicBot" to serve its more than 200,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers. "Our robot will go out on the Net and come back to report where most of the audio content is out there, listing the site name and names of the clips," said Richard Conlon, vice president of marketing and business development for BMI. "It gives us the equivalent of 21 people working around the clock without taking lunch or cigarette breaks."

A recent MusicBot report "suggests that 26,000 of the 1.3 million sites on the Web have audio or rich media files." For now MusicBot only tracks the use of BMI-licensed material, but there are plans to license the technology.

"If we can get it to the point where we feel it's absolutely fabulous, then maybe we'll license it out," Conlon said.

Another company, Intersect, announced in June a similar service that would use so-called intelligent agents to comb the Net for audio files, then generate a report listing the names of sites. Like BMI, Intersect said it would not collect information about surfers, but would provide some marketing services over time, such as tracking hits for customers.